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Gut Health 101

There are about 100 trillion bacteria present in your digestive system, both good and bad. These bacterias are known as your microbiota. Each person’s microbiota is different, just like a fingerprint. Your microbiota is partly created from the moment you were born and partly affected by your diet and lifestyle. These bacteria live all over your body but those living in your intestines may be the most important and can affect everything from your metabolism to your immune system.

What is my gut health like?

Research has shown that gut bacteria in healthy people is very different from people with certain diseases. People who are sick may have too little or too many specific bacterias or a very narrow range of bacterias in their gut. People with conditions such as obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and heart disease may have too many of a certain gut bacteria which can cause the fiber to convert into fatty acids and affect their metabolism. Those with conditions such as Chron’s, IBS, or ulcerative colitis may not have enough anti-inflammatory gut bacteria. Furthermore, the gut has nerve endings that link to the brain; this connection is often called the “gut-brain axis”. This connection means that poor gut health can even affect anxiety and depression levels.

A Gut-Friendly Diet

One of the first steps you can take to improve your gut health is eating a nutritious diet. You should pick high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some examples include:

  • Raspberries
  • Artichokes
  • Green peas
  • Broccoli
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas

Aside from fruits and veggies, fermented foods can help improve your gut health immensely. Fermented foods convert sugars in food to organic acids or alcohols and contain healthy bacteria. Examples of fermented foods include:

  • Yogurt (aim for low or no-sugar options like plain natural yogurt)
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Keifer
  • Tempeh

Diets that are high in fats and sugar, and low in fiber can actually kill certain types of microbiota. It is also important to note that artificial sweeteners have been shown to have a negative impact on gut health, blood sugar levels, and insulin responses. While it may be tempting to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, this may be an even worse choice. Limit your sugar intake where you can and aim for natural desserts like fruit!

Exercise

Regular exercise has been linked to changes in gut health. Incorporating physical activity into your daily life has been shown to increase healthy microbes and the production of short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Exercising at least three times a week can vastly improve your gut health and overall well-being while also decreasing the risk of disease.

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics are live microorganisms that change the composition of the microbiota and support your metabolism. Especially for those with underlying conditions or diseases, probiotic supplements can help improve gut and overall health immensely. Probiotics help to colonize your gut with helpful microorganisms and diversify the bacteria present in your system. Additionally, probiotics have been shown to help with digestive issues, inflammation, immune function, blood pressure, and cholesterol. If you are interested in taking a probiotic, speak with your doctor to make sure this is the best choice for you.

The health of your gut impacts your mental and physical health throughout the rest of your body. Prioritizing your gut health through proper diet, exercise and probiotics could help ward off unwanted health problems such as diabetes, depression, and heart disease. Good gut health will improve your overall quality of life, so pay attention to your gut, and what contributes to gut health!

 

For more information on the gut check out these resources:

What Your Gut Bacteria Says About You

10 Ways To Improve Your Gut Bacteria

Probiotics 101: A Simple Beginner’s Guide

Research Says Exercise Also Improves Your Gut Bacteria

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